UMass neuroscientist explores Alzheimer’s treatment via protein mechanisms

Dr. Sandra Petersen, Professor of Molecular Endocrinology of Reproduction, and her research team have discovered a link between a protein considered in Alzheimer’s treatment and its possible varied effects on inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases.

Sandra Petersen
Professor, Veterinary and Animal Sciences

Progesterone receptor membrane component 1 (PGRMC1) is a protein considered to be a promising candidate for treating Alzheimer’s disease (AD), because blocking activity of the protein significantly decreases amyloid beta (Aβ) binding to neurons. The Petersen laboratory (VASCI) in collaboration with Alexander Suvorov’s group (EHS) at UMass Amherst recently reported that PGRMC1 also interferes with the activity of a pro-inflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα).   TNFα, plays a role in the neuropathology underlying AD, so inhibition of TNFα prevents or reduces symptoms of the disease.   Based on this research, it was found that treating patients with drugs that block PGRMC1 in an attempt to reduce Aβ binding to neurons, may also prevent PGRMC1 suppression of TNFα so treatment may not be optimal.  They are currently studying the mechanisms through which PGRMC1 exerts its multiple effects in order to develop better therapeutic agents for treating AD as well as other neurodegenerative diseases involving inflammation.